When we last wrote about UCLA’s attempts at using drugs and spinal neurostimulation to restore motor movement they had succeeded in bringing back leg movement in paraplegic rats. Since then, the drug component has been removed, the study has been expanded to include researchers from the University of Louisville as well as the California Institute of Technology, and the subject has changed to 25-year old Rob Summers who became completely paralyzed below the chest in a hit-and-run car accident in 2006.
Remarkably, the researchers have succeeded in restoring considerable movement to Summers’ paralyzed legs. The results were achieved using a Medtronic stimulator through continual direct “epidural electrical stimulation” of the lower spinal cord to mimic the signals that the brain normally sends to initiate movement. Because of the neurostimulator, along with extensive rehab and training sessions, Summers can stand on his own for four minutes, voluntarily can move his toes, ankles, knees and hips on command, and make repeated stepping motions on a treadmill.
There’s a lot of work still to be done, but the success of the neurostimulator, which has been commercially approved for lower back pain, shows a lot of promise for restoring mobility. In addition, researchers hope that the epidural stimulation might also prove useful in the treatment of stroke, Parkinson’s, and other disorders affecting motor function.
from University of Louisville: UofL research helps paraplegic man stand, regain leg use…